Tami Oldham Ashcraft On The Real-Life Story Behind Film ‘Adrift,’ Shaliene Woodley [VIDEO EXCLUSIVE]
Tami Oldham Ashcraft embarked on a 4,000-mile sailing trip from Tahiti to San Diego with her fiance Richard Sharp when they got caught in a category five hurricane that put their skills to the test in a fight to survive.
Their 1983 survival story was the inspiration for the new movie Adrift, starring Shaliene Woodley and Sam Claflin. Ashcraft told uInterview Woodley’s portrayal of her “just amazing” and believed “she really brought it all to the screen.”
It all began when the couple were delivering a yacht across the ocean, while at sea they heard about a tropical depression that was forming in Central America. “We ran from it for nearly three days,” she said. “But it finally ended up hitting us and capsizing the boat 360 [degrees] and washing Richard overboard and I was knocked unconscious for nearly 27 hours.”
The last thing she remembered before being unconscious for over a day was hearing her fiance’s scream as the wave hit. “I heard Richard scream when this happened,” she explained. “I just remember holding my head and the whole boat going over, and really that’s the last thing I remembered until I woke up.”
Ashcraft refused to accept death as her fate, even though “every day was difficult.” After the hit, it took her a few days to repair the boat enough to get it moving. “It took me some time to get the boat sailing again. I had my masts completely ripped out, all my electronics were fried, so I needed to get the boat moving and get us to safety,” she said.
Despite the difficulties that came with repairing the boat, she never lost hope. Every day “there was always a little positiveness going on” that kept her morale up.
Years later, the journey never shook her love for the ocean. Ashcraft “couldn’t wait to get back to sea” shortly after getting to safety. She is now lives in the San Juan Archipelago islands in Washington State and has her captain’s license and owns a power boat.
Read Tami Oldman Ashcraft’s full uInterview below.
How did your voyage start out?
Tami Oldman Ashcraft: We’ll we were delivering a yacht from Tahiti to San Diego and we heard of a tropical depression starting off of Central America, which gained in intensity and it came out as a full blown category five hurricane. We ran from it for nearly three days, but it finally ended up hitting us and capsizing the boat 360 and washing Richard [Sharp] overboard and I was knocked unconscious for nearly 27 hours.
How did you react when the hurricane hit?
TOA: Well we were in about 50 foot seas and we thought we were handling it, we had no sails up, we thought we were handling it pretty good, coming up and over these seas, even though they were massive and it was really scary. But we thought we were handling the situation alright, a lot of times it would be a like rouge wave that would come through and that’s what hit us. And I heard Richard scream when this happened. I just remember holding my head and the whole boat going over, and really that’s the last thing I remembered until I woke up.
How did you navigate to safety?
TOA: I was in complete shock, it took me some time to get the boat sailing again. I had my masts completely ripped out, all my electronics were fried, so I needed to get the boat moving and get us to safety. It took days to get the rig, my little rig up, so I could put a little sail on it. Finally making steerage with the boat, I was able to, with a sextant and using the sun and stars, I was able to then navigate my way and get to Hilo, Hawaii.
What was the most difficult part for you?
TOA: The most difficult part was, every day, every day was difficult. Just trying to keep my wits about me, keep my sanity, for one thing. And just dealing with the elements, dealing with Mother Nature as it kept coming towards me. Everyday there was always a little positiveness going on, once I got the sail going, the boat was moving, there was progress on the chart, I found my watch in the bilge, and I could figure out where I was on the chart. So there was always a little hope every day and that’s what kept me going.
How was Shailene Woodley’s portrayal of you?
TOA: Oh she was just – Shailene Woodley is just amazing. I mean, she really brought it all to the screen. Just the depth of her acting, the way she portrayed, as someone who has never really sailed or has been out on the sea like that, she did an amazing job, and I think it really shows in this movie.
Do you still sail?
TOA: Yeah, I do, I do still sail after the experience. I couldn’t wait to get back to sea actually, after this happened. I went to sea for more than ten years and got my captain’s license and I still sail to this day. I do have a power boat now though, because I live amongst a bunch of islands up in the San Juan Archipelago, so it’s not all the best sailing up there, but it’s great boating country.